Happy New Year! I can't believe winter break is already over and classes here at Caltech are in full swing. School started this past Wednesday but I came back to Pasadena early with my family to see the world famous Rose Parade. This festival is definitely something that Pasadena is well known for and I figured it was worth seeing at least once during the four years I am here at Caltech. To my surprise, there were actually quite a few Techers who had also come back to school early in order to watch the parade and/or go to the Rose Bowl game. The Tournament of Roses consists of a parade that is just on East Colorado Blvd (about a 10 minute walk from the student Houses) and the Rose Bowl college game. It usually happens on New Year's Day but since it was a Sunday this year, the festivities were moved to a Monday, January 2. This year, the college football teams that were competing in the Rose Bowl were Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon Ducks.
The morning of the Rose Parade, we walked to the intersection of Hill street and East Colorado Blvd. I was really surprised to see that the street was lined with so many people! In addition, millions of people tune in on their televisions as well. Crowds of hundreds of thousands of spectators mostly from out of town were packed on the sidewalks. Apparently, people had camped out the previous day starting at 2pm and slept on air mattresses or in sleeping bags in order to get the coveted viewing spots on the curbsides!
We all waited in anticipation for the parade to begin. There were at total of 44 floats, 16 marching bands, and 22 equestrian groups that participated this year. In addition, this year there were also hundreds of protesters part of the Occupy Wall street movement present that demonstrated peacefully. Only through being present amongst thousands of spectators did I realize how lucky I was to be so close to such as famous and widely broadcasted event!
The marching bands added an air of excitement as they played peppy tunes and contributed to the high energy and spirits of the spectators. I loved the different colors and uniformity within the bands and also the color guard team performed fun dance routines as well. Not only were there marching bands from the USA, but there were also international bands from Sweden, Japan, and Puerto Rico.
All of the intricate floats were quite impressive as each had a distinctive theme and displayed elaborate creativity. Extensive preparation has gone into each as most had hundred of thousands of fresh flowers that must have taken hours of toiling!
In addition, each team competing later in the day at the Rose Bowl prepared a float.
Moreover, riders on horses trekked down the street as well.
Under the sunny and perennial 75 degree weather, the atmosphere was full of cheer as spectators gathered to welcome in the new year. Football fans all wore their team's gear to show support and were in the stands cheering for their respective teams. What a great kick-off to the year!
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. For those unfamiliar, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative medicines.
With 45 Nobel Laureates on its Faculty Roster, it’s not surprising that research is an integral part of the Caltech undergraduate experience. One of the programs that promotes such research is the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). There is no minimum knowledge or experience required to participate in a Caltech SURF. In fact, students can participate in a SURF as soon as the summer after their freshman year. It is not difficult to get a SURF. All you need to do is find a mentor who is working in an area of research that interests you and willing to mentor you through a research project. The mentor can work in a Caltech lab, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), or at another participating institution. Once you find a mentor, you work together to write a project proposal that you later send to the SURF office for review and approval. About 98% of the SURF proposals get approved. This fellowship is a great way to explore various fields of research and obtain real, hands-on experience where you get to apply the theoretical knowledge you’ve learned in class. Not only do you get to work and learn alongside your mentor, but you also get compensated for your time. The length of the SURF is ten weeks, and it starts at the beginning of the summer. However, it is not uncommon for many students at Caltech to continue their research project throughout the academic school year.
Like many students at Caltech, I suffer from a slight boba addiction, where side effects may include over caffeination, minor sugar highs, and of course, a large toll on one’s wallet. This addiction is not helped by the fact that there are at least three boba shops within walking distance of campus. So, after an entire term’s worth of boba runs, I came back from winter break with a new year’s epiphany: it was time to get a job. Rather than try to curb my addiction, I decided to find a way to subsidize it.
Research at Caltech looks different for every student, and can often vary term by term. As a chemistry major, my course requirements are on the lighter side for a Caltech major, and many chemistry majors take advantage of the lighter course load to join research groups. This can be whenever the student wants, but many people join labs during their freshman or sophomore years. Some may work in one lab only, and some may switch between labs during the course of their undergraduate studies, depending on if their interests change.